Generalife occupies the slopes of the Cerro del Sol or Hill of the Sun, across the valley from the Nasrid Palaces. The Generalife was built in the 13th century as a leisure place for the kings of Granada when they wanted to get away from the official affairs of the palace. The Palacio de Generalife or Architect’s Garden was built in the early 1300’s, as the summer palace and country estate of the Moorish kings of Granada.
The Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens are high up in the hills, and have panoramic views over the Granada and the river valleys of Genil and Darro. It’s a great place to just walk around and relax.
The gardens are very well tended by 35 professional gardeners and one can see them at work while one wanders through the gardens.
Generalife Alhambra – History Under A Minute
Palacio de Generalife and their gardens were initially planned in the 13th century as a summer palace for the Nasrid sultans. The Palace was built along the slopes of the Cerro del Sol or Hill of the Sun. It looks across over to the Alhambra and down over the Genil and Daroo valleys. The Palacio de Generalife was designed to offer calm and relaxing retreat. Like many Moorish palaces it included the use of water and vegetation. The sound of trickling water would have muddled with the gentle breeze and songs of birds, setting a peaceful tone for quiet reflection.
The name come from a translation of its Moorish name ‘Jardines del Alarife’ or the Garden of the Architect. The Generalife Gardens have been modified over the centuries, but the terrace gardens have retained their simplicity. The main architectural component of the gardens is a palace with patios, courtyards, and pavilions.
A Tour of Generalife, Alhambra
The Generalife is split between the Palace and the High and Low gardens.
Paseo de los Nogales
As you leave the main entrance to the Alhambra at the top of the Cuesta del Rey Chico, you walk up a path shaded by trees. To the left of you is the entrance to the with Alhambra Alto and the Torre del Agua or Tower of Water and Torre del Cabo de la Carrera or the Tower at the End of the Street. You will come to a junction, the left turn is the main route to the Alhambra, the right is the way you return from the Generalife and you go through the middle path up Paseo de los Nogales or Promenade of the Walnut Trees to the Jardines Bajos. From here it will take 10 minutes to walk to the Generalife Palace.
There are great views over the walls and towers of the Alhambra from this walk. The first tower you see will be the forlorn looking Torre del Cabo de la Carrera or Tower of the End of the Street which was destroyed in 1812 by the retreating forces of Napoleon. The next is the Torre de las Infantas or Tower of the Princesses, which held the three daughters, Zaida, Zoraida and Zorahaida of Emir Mohamed IX (ca. 1370-1453) prisoners. Followed by the Torre de la Cautiva or Tower of the Captive named after its famous occupant Lady Isabel de Solís, who had been a captive but, converted to the Islamand became the Sultan’s, favorite wife. The final two tower before turning off the road would be the Torre del Cadí or Tower of the Judge and the Torre de los Picos with its distinctive crenelations.
While looking over at the Alhambra you will be looking over the Huertas del Generalife. The Generalife was surrounded by four orchards of fruit trees for the consumption of the court, and, in addition, the pastures for livestock were cared for there.
You will be guided up some steps to leave the Paseo de los Nogales and enter the Jardines Bajos or Lower Gardens.Read more about the Paseo de los Nogales
As you head up the steps you will see the Teatro del Generalife on your right, turn left into the Jardines Bajos or Lower Gardens
These gardens were laid out in the early 20th century is a beautiful series of gardens, pools, fountains and hedges, with occasional glimpses of the towers and walls of the Alhambra.Read more about the Jardines Bajos
Patio del Descabalgamiento
As you enter you come to the Patio del Descabalgamiento, so called as its name from the presence of footrests that facilitate horse riders in their dismount. Also on hand are two side buildings, which were probably used as stables. As you pass through the next archway note the Key symbol in the archway.Read more about the Patio del Descabalgamiento
Patio de la Guardia
You enter under an arch of Morcabes into a small courtyard with a fountain n the middle. To access the Patio de la Acequia head straight across into the doorway into what looks like a three floor tower. The tower in was used as a lookout tower over the main entrance gate. Through the doorway the narrow stairs turns to the left and you ascend into the Patio de la Acequia.Read more about the Patio de la Guardia
Patio de la Acequia
The Patio de la Acequia or patio of the Water Channel is the most important part of the Generalife. It is divided length way by an water channel that continues from here to carry water to the Alhambra. The channel is surrounded by several famous crossing jets and has a stone basin at each of its ends.
The rest of the patio is occupied by different vegetal species that have been changed according to the moment’s tastes. Nowadays there are myrtle bushes, orange trees, cypresses and rosebushes.Read more about the Patio de la Acequia
The South Pavilion
As you entered the Patio de la Acequia you would have passed through the lower floor of the South Pavilion. This was thought to have been the Harem or rooms of the Sultan’s wives and family when they stayed here. The pavilion offers pleasant views of the gardens and he watercourse below.
Head to the north Pavilion by walking along the west porticoed galleries of the Patio de la Acequia. In the middle of this is a mirador or viewing platform. In the days of the sultan this would have been the only opening on this side. The arches in the other parts of the wall were made in the time of the catholic Monarchs.Read more about the Pabellón Sur de Generalife
At the end of the Acequia courtyard lies the North Pavilion, thought to be the rooms of the Sultan when he stayed here. Behind a portico with five arches, you enter the Sala Regia or Royal Chamber, decorated with plaster-work, and leading to a 14th-century viewpoint in the Torre de Ismail or Tower of Ismail. The upper floors were added by the Catholic Monarchs in 1494.
You access the Patio of the Cypresses by ascending steps in the west of the Sala Regia.Read more about the Pabellón Norte del Palacio del Generalife
Patio of the Cypresses
You enter the Courtyard of the Cypress of the Sultana via an arcaded building which dates from 1584. In the center, nearly filling the courtyard is a pool, in a U shape, an island in the center holds another small stone fountain. The whole complex is surrounded by jets that release water, achieving a cool atmosphere that already in 1526 strongly impressed the Ambassador of the Republic of Venice Andrea Navaggiero on his visit to the Generalife.
There are the remains of a Cypress tree in the eastern side of this courtyard. There is a legend that this courtyard was the witness of a love affair between Morayma, the wife of king Boabdil, and a handsome knight of the Abencerrajes family. The lovers met under the shade of a cypress tree here. When the King found out in his rage he retaliated by luring the brother knights of the Abencerrajes to a banquet in the Alhambra. When the knights came the King beheaded the knights. According to legend, even today the iron rust stains at the bottom of the fountain of the Sala de los Abencerrajes contain the blood that was shed in revenge. For this reason the courtyard is also called the Courtyard Cypress of the Sultana.
The story was possibly a tale imagined by romantic travelers who visited Granada in the 18th century. Yet if the sultan’s cypress tree could talk, it may well tell even more amazing stories.
You leave the courtyard to the High Gardens, by passing the archway in the south side and ascending some steps of the Staircase of the Lions. On the top of the archway are two glazed earthenware figurines of lions facing each other.Read more about the Patio del Ciprés
The High Gardens
These gardens were complete in the nineteenth-century. These gardens, are distributed on different levels, have small fountains with jets between the flower beds, with some beautiful specimens of magnolia trees, fragrant shrubs and a careful alternation of evergreen and deciduous tree specimens, make these gardens sheltered from the cold winds of the North, a small and romantic botanical garden, worthy of the best European humanist tradition.
Head to the east of the garden towards the Muslim water staircase and descending through a stepped pergola.Read more about the Jardines Altos
To access the highest area of the Generalife you need to ascend the Escalera del Agua. This is famous for the water that flows down it through its banisters and a central channel. The staircase has three landings with a small circular patio with a pool and fountains in the center.Read more about the Escalera del Agua
Romantic Viewing Point
At the end of the Water Stairway is the highest point in the Generalife. There is a neo-Gothic style building built here in 1836 by Jaime Traverso, the administrator of the site to be used as a Romantic Observation Point.
It was though to have been built on the top of a old Mosque.Read more about the Mirador Romántico
House of Friends
As you leave the high gardens by the Póstigo de los Carneros and the South Pavilion, you will see the remains of a building known as Casa de los Amigos. It would have been a separate complex of rooms for guests around a central courtyard. It was built between the 13th and 14th centuries.Read more about the Casa de los Amigos
Walk of the Oleanders
Paseo de las Adelfas or Walk of the Oleanders is a long path that runs along the upper part of the orchard, which it is separated from by a wall. The walk is all covered by a canopy of oleander.Read more about the Paseo de las Adelfas
Walk of the Cypresses
The promenade of the cypress trees is a continuation of the The Walk of the Oleanders and leads the to the exit of the Gereralife.Read more about the Paseo de los Cipreses
Best Generalife Alhambra Tickets
If you were wondering which tickets work best to explore the Generalife gardens of the Alhmabra? Here’s our selection of the top 4 Alhambra Gardens tickets.
Getting to Generalife Alhambra
The Generalife Gardens are separated from the Alhambra by the Cuesta del Rey Chico o Cuesta de los Chinos.
Once you enter the ticket office and the main entrance of the Alhambra Complex, you will find the Generalife Gardens on the right side, and the Alhambra Museum, Nasrid Palaces and Alcazaba on the left side.
The Alcazaba and the Nasrid Palaces are almost 1KM away from the Generalife and you need to access them on foot. There are clear sign boards indicating directions across the Alhambra Complex, hence getting around shouldn’t be a problem.
Generalife Gardens Opening Hours
The Alhambra Monument is open every day except 25th December and 1st January. The general visiting hours for the Alhambra are as follows:
Visiting Alhambra between 15th October – 31st March
Monday – Sunday: 8:30 AM to 6:00 PM
Nasrid Palaces – Night session: (Fri to Sat) 8.00 PM to 9.30 PM
Generalife Palace – Night session: (Fri to Sat) 8.00 PM to 9.30 PM
Visiting Alhambra between 1st April to 14th October
Monday – Sunday: 8:30 AM to 8.00 PM
Nasrid Palaces Night session: (Tuesday – Saturday) 10.00 PM to 11.30 PM
Generalife Palace and Gardens – Night session – 1st April – 31st May: (Tues to Sat) 10.00 PM to 11.30 PM
Generalife Palace – Night session – 1st Sept – 14th Oct: (Fri to Sat) 10.00 PM to 11.30 PM
Tips for visiting the Gardens of Generalife
- Keep aside 1.5 hours for a leisurely visit of the Alhambra Gardens
- The Generalife Alhambra Tour is adapted for the disabled and those on wheelchairs.
- Plucking flowers and walking on grass in the gardens is strictly prohibited.
- Distance from the lockers to the Generalife: 100 m
- Distance from the Generalife to Nasrid Palace: 700 m
You return to the junction where we started, by the entrance to the Alhambra. If you have not see the The Alcazaba try our Self Guided Tour of The Alcazaba, or our tours of the Nasrid Palaces The Mexuar, The Comres Palace and the Palace of the Lions.